My lips hovered over Monica’s as I debated my next move. I’d ignored my ringing phone, because, well, I had my hands full with Monica. The knock on the door wasn’t quite as easy to ignore, especially when accompanied by Lyla’s voice.
“Beck, are you home? I’m having a bit of an emergency.”
As soon as I sat back on the couch, Monica’s eyes flashed. “Are you kidding me?”
Was I? Shit, I was as revved up as she was, but what was I supposed to do? Leave Lyla out on my doorstep? When it came to her, “a bit of an emergency” could be that she’d gotten a B, there was a cat in need of saving, or a slasher was after her. She really only spoke in one level, and that was “quiet.” “Give me just a sec.”
Monica gripped my shirt and ran her tongue over my jaw, which I’m sure she thought was sexy but left me feeling like I’d been licked by a Labrador. “Don’t keep me waiting.”
Much-needed cool air hit me as soon as I opened the door. Lyla stood on the walkway, arms wrapped around herself. She didn’t have on a coat, just a long-sleeved shirt and one of her multi-colored scarves. “Hey, I’m kinda busy,” I said. “Can we—”
I froze at the sight of her splotchy tear-streaked cheeks. “What happened? Did someone hurt you?”
She shook her head and blew out a white puff of air. “Not physically, anyway.”
I glanced from her to Monica, who was draped across the couch, wearing only her bra and jeans. Damn, she was gonna be pissed.
Lyla glanced inside and her eyes went wide. “You’re obviously busy—I knew you would be. It’s nothing, really. I’ll just see you tomorrow for movie night, ’kay?” She turned to go, and I reached out and caught her arm.
“Come on inside.” There was no way I could focus now. Sure, it’d only take a few minutes to get back into things with Monica, but I’d worry about Lyla off and on all night. Somewhere along the way, I’d started to feel responsible for her, and if anyone hurt her, I’d personally hunt them down.
After I closed the door behind us, bringing this Saturday night to a three-way kind of sitch—and not the good kind—I ran a hand through my hair. “Uh, Monica, we’re going to have to catch up another time.”
The girl looked Lyla up and down with a disgusted scowl on her face that screamed You’re choosing her over me? and it suddenly got that much easier to say good-bye.
“In your dreams, asshole,” she spat at me as she walked past. So no love lost there. I still walked her out, even though my thighs burned from tonight’s game, and it involved too many stairs, because I like to think I’m at least half a gentleman.
When I got back inside, Lyla looked up from her spot on the couch. “How’d the flavor of the week take it?”
I flopped next to her, flinching when I bumped the side where I’d been checked earlier tonight. Dude thought he was real tough, but I ended up with the puck and the score—it made any resulting bruises worth it. “Actually, I met her three weekends ago, thank-you-very-much.”
“Ooh, a repeat offender. I’m impressed.”
“I can hear you judging me. Pretty harsh after the cock blocking. Guess I’ll just have to make do with you.” I leaned toward her, mouth open as wide as I could get it, tongue out.
“Ew!” She laughed and shoved me away. Good. She was smiling now. The sad face was killing me. But all too soon, it was back. If it were anyone else, I would run as far as I could go to keep from discussing emotions or getting into whatever had made her cry. But Lyla was my girl, and like I said, I felt responsible for her. Probably because hanging with her was always easy—the break from life I occasionally needed—and I didn’t have many close friends who knew me as well as she did. I liked it that way, and honestly, I wasn’t sure how she’d managed to get in so easily.
She ran her palms down her thighs, focusing on the motion. “I got set up on a date tonight. Or more like I was the sixth wheel pity-date option.”
“Sixth wheel?” I asked.
She told me about the set-up, the drinking, and when she looked down and whispered the part about some asshole calling her fugly and boring, I clenched my fists, wanting to find the guy and use them on him. “I just don’t think I can go back tonight.” She wiped the tears from her cheeks. “Can I crash on your couch?”
“You know you can. Anytime.” Over the past few months I’d forgotten how fragile she could be. She had no problem speaking her mind around me anymore, but it’d taken a while, and sometimes I worried people would take advantage of her. I’d never expected someone to go out of his way to be outright mean, though. “That guy was wrong, Lyla. He’s clearly a giant douche.”
She unwound the scarf from her neck and tossed it aside. Then she pulled her light brown waves into a messy bun, took a pencil off the side table, and shoved it through her hair to secure it in place. “I don’t think I’m quite as bad as fugly, but I am plain. And I am boring. All I ever do is study. Just like I did in high school. I thought I’d go to college and live in a big city, and things would be different. Only everyone else is different, and I’m as awkward and nerdy as ever. That whole things-get-better-after-high-school is total crap.”
I didn’t even know where to start with that. Seemed like a lot of landmines that could explode if I said the wrong thing.
“I’m sick of it, Beck. I don’t want to do the safe thing anymore just because I’m too afraid to try anything else.” Resolve set into her features—it was the same look she got when we were solving difficult chemistry equations last semester, or when one of our labs didn’t go quite right and we needed to figure out why. She gets scary-focused sometimes. “It’s time for a change. Time to let loose a little. I’m in my second semester of college, and I haven’t done anything you’re supposed to do. Like get so drunk you puke and don’t remember the rest of the night.”
“Overrated, I swear.”
She looked at me, that deadly look on her face, and I held up my hands. “Fine. You wanna get drunk and puke, I’m not gonna stop you.”
“But I want to do, like, more than just drinking.” Her brow furrowed and I could practically see the wheels in her brain spinning. “I should make a list and outline a plan.”
I was going to point out that list-making wasn’t the best way to let loose, but I decided to let it go.
She leaned forward and glanced around. “Don’t you have any other pens or pencils?”
“I’m surprised I had the one you put in your hair. If you really need something to write with, I can grab a pen from the kitchen.”
“And a piece of paper?”
As if she’d ever use just one—another thing I’d learned when we’d shared a class. So instead of the kitchen, I headed into my bedroom, grabbed a mostly blank notebook and pen, and handed them over. She tapped the pen to her lips. “I’m thinking I start with a new look—like one of those extreme makeovers. It’ll get me in a new mind frame, so I can be a whole new me. What do you think? Would I look okay super blond? Or should I go dark? Or maybe streaky highlights?” Her eyebrows arched as she looked up from the blank paper.
Girls loved these kinds of trick questions, and I’d learned to tread carefully whenever they came up. “I think you look fine the way you are.”
She tilted her head and sighed. “But what did you think when you first met me? You can be honest. I’m sure you were a little disappointed when you found out I was your assigned chem partner.”
“Well, yeah,” I said, “but that was because with how damn cute you were, I was sure you’d be stupid, and that meant I was going to end up doing all the work.” She rolled her eyes, and I smiled, unable to keep from adding, “Then I caught your scent, and your blood smelled so good, I was afraid I’d kill you and eat you. That’s why I was all broody and denting the table the first day.”
Lyla laughed and shoved my arm. “You’re stupid.”
“I am. I let you talk me into that Twilight marathon last Sunday. Clearly a mistake.”
“Hey, I watched that dumb prank movie with the gross bathroom humor. And we still have two Twilight movies to go. Now, be serious.”
“Okay. Serious.” I draped my arm behind the couch and met her gaze. “Changing your look because of what some asshole said is stupid.” I wasn’t lying when I said she was damn cute—she had a sweet, innocent look about her, and I’d always liked that she was unique. “And doesn’t it go against your feminist values?”
Her lips turned into a pouty frown. “It’s not against feminism to look my best. And I’m not changing it for him. I’m changing it for me.” She put a hand over her heart. “I want to try new things. I spent high school playing things safe. Being the perfect girl with perfect grades that my parents wanted me to be so I could get into a great college. But here I finally am, and I don’t want to be the nice girl anymore. I want to be the hot girl. I want to be bolder. Do something completely crazy. Dangerous, even.”
The glint in her eyes was definitely dangerous, and there were alarm bells going off in my head. “I don’t want to look back and have all these regrets,” she said, her voice firm and louder than usual. “And if I don’t do it this semester, before my classes get even more difficult and I’m totally set in my boring patterns, it’ll be that much harder.” She pulled one corner of her bottom lip between her teeth, looking vulnerable again. “But I’ll admit I’m completely out of my league here. In order to do this, I need your help.”
I stared into her hazel eyes, so full of hope and determination, and my heart tugged. One day we’d been partners for chem lab, and then before I knew it, she was the girl who talked me into watching chick flicks and interrupted make-out sessions with no repercussions. She’d looked so harmless, too, with her hippie style and messy bun with a pen or pencil forever stabbed through it.
“Please,” she added, putting her hands up in prayer position.
If it was what she really wanted, of course I was going to help her. After all, what are friends for?
Thank you for reading the second chapter of GETTING LUCKY NUMBER SEVEN!